Jeweler Joe Pacetti puts bling in the kitchen as sous to a culinary star for the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Dinner
TASTE AMERICA DINNER
Hilton Anatole Tower, 2201 N. Stemmons Freeway. Sept. 26.
7 p.m. JBFTasteAmerica.org.
Most people pay for meals at restaurants to have someone else — preferably a talented chef — cook a meal for them. But some people pay for the privilege of doing the cooking themselves.
That’s the case, at least, for the local folks who signed on to be sous chefs for a half-dozen professionals, donating $1,500 to benefit the James Beard Foundation, the charitable organization for the foodie community named about the famed gay gourmand.
And when the chef they are paired with is one of the best in town, even the nation, it sounds like a bargain — all are James Beard Award winners or invitees to cook at the James Beard House in New York City: Matt McCallister (FT33), Tim Byres (Smoke), Omar Flores (Casa Rubia), David Uygur (Lucia) and Janice Provost (Parigi) will guide the volunteers through prep and presentation at an exclusive reception (only 300 tickets will be sold) at the Anatole on Sept. 26. Then everyone will sit down for a dinner created by the legendary Stephan Pyles and the all-star chef at The Inn at Little Washington, Patrick O’Connell.
Billed as “a once-in-a-lifetime culinary collaboration” between Pyles and O’Connell, it’s a fundraiser put on in cooperation with Café Momentum, with wines provided by Hall Winery.
And it won’t cost you as much as it cost the sous chefs to participate.
One of the luminaries who signed on to sous for his supper is Joe Pacetti, the energetic jeweler known as much for his charitable work as for his eye-popping bling. We tracked down Pacetti — who is currently in Normandy, staying at a 17th century castle with a centuries-old open-fire kitchen — to find out what his culinary bona fides are. Being Italian, he of course has stories. And being Joe Pacetti, you know it won’t be just the plates that will dazzle diners.
Dallas Voice: Do you yourself cook much at home? Joe Pacetti: I find I cook more in my New York apartment than I cook in Dallas.
With a name like “Pacetti,” people are gonna expect you to know your way around a kitchen — especially if pasta is on the menu. Did you grow up with an interest in cooking? I have always loved food — especially being an Italian! I have had some wonderful examples to follow in the kitchen: my mom, Cleora, who cooked for me in Tulsa 30-plus years ago, and now Doris Woods in Dallas, who has worked with me for more than 23 years.
Your mom just passed away earlier this month. What did she add to your culinary knowledge? My mother passed away at a month [shy of] 98 years old, and she was still a great cook! We didn’t have a lot of Italian cuisine growing up, but had more good ol’ Southern comfort food.
Any more culinary mentors? Chef Connie Mullins has traveled all over the country for eight years with me, making me look good in front of my guests — and sharing her kitchen expertise with me, too!
Do you have a specialty dish? My specialty is my mom’s baked beans, made with black strap molasses and accompanied by a great meat loaf and the richest mashed potatoes that have ever crossed your hips! To be really decadent, I’ll make homemade shortcakes and use fresh strawberries and real whipped cream.
Being a sous chef to some high-powered culinary lions might require some mad skills. What’s the most elaborate dinner you’ve ever cooked on your own? The most elaborate meal I ever created was an all-venison dinner that Doris and I prepared from an 8-point buck that my 95-pound daughter shot while hunting in South Texas.
Sounds awesome and exotic. After surviving that, is there anything that would intimidate you in the kitchen? All that intimidates me in the kitchen is a soufflé that won’t rise or that falls [too soon].
Why did you sign up for this experience? I thought it sounded interesting, fun and intriguing, all tooled into one.
Did you know about the Beard House before you signed up? Ever been there? I have had no experience at the Beard House, but am anxious to be there, as I have always heard of it.
What is most exciting to you about what you’ll be doing? What do you hope most to take away from the experience? I am excited to meet [the chefs] and learn some trade secrets! I want to learn from the experts. They say the way to a man’s heart is through cooking, so I ideally I would like to learn how to “cook down” some sauces and make them replicate those I’ve sampled in France.
You’re a jeweler by trade, so it was only fitting that you decided to add some bling to that plain white chef’s coat. Describe for us what “cooking jewelry” you’re planning. Usually your hands are soiled with what you are cooking, so that makes rings and bracelets very difficult to wear. The ideal “cooking jewelry” for me is a bib full of diamonds, in strands! Something glittering around your neck can hide a multitude of sins … like a very soiled apron.
Agreed — nothing distracts the eye from a gravy stain like a sapphire.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 19, 2014.